what's new?  |   archive  |   prehistoric ryukyu  |   ancient ryukyu  |   early-modern ryukyu  |   modern okinawa  |   postwar & contemporary okinawa  |  links  | contents  | about this website


Report of a Special Subcommittee of the Armed

Services Committee, House of Representatives

Following an Inspection Tour

October 14 to November 23, 1955


On July 26, 1955, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, House of Representatives, appointed a special subcommittee with the honourable Melvin Price as chairman to make an inspection tour of our military installations and missions in various parts of the world. The prime mission of the subcommittee was to study the land situation in Okinawa.

Chairman Vinson appointed the following members of the Committee on Armed Services as members of the special subcommittee:

Hon. O. C. Fisher, Hon. W. Sterling Cole, Hon. George Miller, Hon. Walter Norblad, Hon. James T. Patterson, Hon. William H. Bates

The following persons also accompanied time subcommittee in the capacities designated:

Mr. Philip W. Kelleher (counsel, Committee on Armed Services), Mr. Lloyd K. Kuhn (assistant counsel), Col. John W. Gorn (Office of Legislative Liaison, Department of the Army, escort officer), M. Sgt. William F. Daniels (United States Army, assistant escort officer)

Other officers assigned to the subcommittee for special duties were:

Capt. John F. Davidson (United States Navy), Lt. Comdr. William J. McMahon (United States Navy)

The group departed Washington, D.C., on the morning of October 14, 1955, and returned to Washington on November 23, 1955.

Much of the material presented to the subcommittee, both orally and in written form, during the trip is necessarily of a highly classified nature and cannot be discussed in this report. Such classified written material is on file in the committee's classified files and is open to inspection by members of the Armed Services Committee.


In order to have a clear comprehension of the unusually intricate and varied problems which face the United States in its occupancy and acquisition of lands in Okinawa, it is necessary to have a rather complete understanding of the history of our occupancy of this island from the time it was wrested from the Japanese in 1945. Similarly it is necessary to have some knowledge of the recent political history of the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the largest.

The Ryukyu Islands lie southeast of Japan, northeast of Formosa and the Philippines, and west of the Bonins. The chain of islands is some 775 miles long and contains 140 islands. Okinawa, the main island, is almost 6,000 miles from San Francisco, and 850 miles from Tokyo. It has two main ports, Naha on the China side, and White Beach on the Pacific side. The island is 67 miles long and has a width ranging from 3 to 10 miles. Two-thirds of the island is rugged terrain, with hills rising to 1,500 feet or more. Southern Okinawa is less rugged, having rolling hills with shallow ravines and valleys. There are about 800,000 people in the Ryukyu Islands with about 675,000 of these living on Okinawa and the smaller islands immediately surrounding it. Americans arrived first in Okinawa at Naha Harbour in 1853 under the command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Perry actually purchased land at Naha for a United States naval coaling station, but his subsequent success in opening Japan caused the United States to overlook the Ryukyus. Okinawa was made a prefecture of Japan in 1879.


Okinawa remained a prefecture of Japan until March 1946, when, for administrative purposes, lie southern boundary of Japan proper was set by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers at 300 degrees north latitude (later 29 degrees), a line which lies to the north of the Ryukyu and Amami Islands.

The United States Navy was responsible for military government on the Ryukyu Islands in the initial period following Japan's surrender. On July 1, 1946, military government responsibility was transferred to the Army. Ryukyus military government continued until October 1950, when all operational functions of military government was transferred to the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands under General MacArthur as governor; the commanding general, RYCOM, as deputy governor; and a civil administrator.

The right of the United States to administer the Ryukyu Islands was based initially on the rules of land warfare. Since April 28, 1952, when the Japanese Peace Treaty was ratified, United States authority in the area has been established by article 3 of that treaty, which provides:

"Japan will concur with any proposal of the US to the United Nations to place under its trusteeship system with the US as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shoto south of 29 degrees north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands), Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan (including the Bonin Islands, Rosario Island, and the Volcano Islands) and Parece Vela and Marcus Island. Pending the making of such a proposal and affirmative action thereon, the US will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters".

On December 25, 1953, when the northernmost islands in the Ryukyus, known as Amami Oshima, were returned to Japan, Secretary Dulles issued a policy statement which included, in pertinent part:

"The United States Government believes that it is essential to the success of the cooperative effort of the free nations of Asia and of the world in the direction of peace and security, that the United States continue to exercise its present powers and rights in the remaining Ryukyu Islands...so long as conditions of threat and tension exist the Far East...Accordingly, the United States intends to remain as custodian of these islands for the foreseeable future."


By Presidential decision responsibility for administration of the Ryukyu Islands is assigned to the Secretary of Defense, who, in turn, has delegated executive agency authority to the Department of the Army. Policy and procedures guiding the administration of the Ryukyu Islands are set forth in the directive for United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, approved by the President on August 2,1954.

The United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR) is the administrative agency of the United States in the Ryukyu Islands. USCAR, organized under the Office of the Civil Administrator, has 8 departments and 2 field teams. The departments of USCAR correspond to the departments of the government of the Ryukyu Islands and provide assistance to the GRI in the development of its programs. Maximum autonomy is accorded the native government consistent with its capabilities and, as time passes, progressively greater authority is being assigned.

The government of the Ryukyu Islands, which has executive, legislative, and judicial functions, was formally established on April 1, 1952. It evolved from a provisional central government, established on April 1, 1951, which in turn had been developed as a result of the merging of four regional Gunto governments. The GRI chief executive, who heads the government's executive branch, was appointed by the Governor of the United States Civil Administration. The GRI legislature, however, was elected by popular vote of the Ryukyuan people. Members of the independent judiciary are appointed by the GRI chief executive.


In 1945, the United States forces took for their military installations approximately 45,000 acres of Ryukyuan land. Some 5,000 acres were returned to the Ryukyuans and the land occupancy today covers approximately 40,000 acres. These lands were taken originally as an act of war with no compensation to the landowners being made or contemplated.

For time period July 1, 1950, to April 28, 1952 (the date of the Treaty of Peace with Japan), the United States forces paid a rental to the Okinawan landowners. This was done pursuant to a United States decision that from July 1, 1950, the United States would operate on a "pay-as-you-go basis" in the area. Because of the difficult task of reconstituting records of landownership, rental payments for this were not concluded until late in 1953. In the treaty of peace, Japan waived all war claims of its nationals against the United States. Accordingly, the Okinawans have no legal basis to press the United States for compensation for the use of their land prior to April 28, 1952.

The authorization request for Okinawa for fiscal year 1956 was $43,983,000, of which $30,500,000 would he allocated for the acquisition of 52,000 acres of land. 51,637 acres of this amount would be for military use. The then stated land requirements of the three services, the cost in each instance, and the service strengths were broken down as follows (the values are as of July 1, 1954):

Included in the total $30,500,000 figure is $5,700,000 for resettlement costs. The $5.7 million would be expended as follows: $2.7 million for moving the displaced Okinawans to another island some 300 miles away and building communities for them on that island, plus $3 million to relocate some 1,200 families now living on the 12,000 acres proposed for acquisition for the Marines.

The original plans contemplated that the Marines would utilize 7,000 acres of the 40,000 acres now occupied by the military, and would require an additional 12,000 acres, for a total of 19,000 acres. In addition, the Marines would utilize a large acreage in the northern part of Okinawa for maneuver purposes. This latter land is in great part former Japanese public domain and no payment would be required for its use, nor would there be any actual displacement of persons by reason of its use. There would, however, be other economic effects which will be discussed later in this report.

Annual rentals were fixed at the rate of 6 percent of the fee value of the land taken, and this valuation was determined as of April 28, 1952, by an appraisal team of the Army Corps of Engineers. The landowners, however, have been unwilling to enter into leases on this basis, contending that the payment rates offered are inadequate. Pursuant to Civil Administration Proclamation No. 26, issued on December 5, 1953, the lands are now held by implied lease. Rentals are deposited in the name of the individual landowners with the government of the Ryukyu Islands. The landowners can accept 75 percent of the amount deposited without prejudice to the right to appeal for a higher rental. A United States Land Acquisition Commission has been established to adjudicate such appeals. This Commission was appointed by the Deputy Governor of the Ryukyu Islands, who is the commanding general of the area. It is made up of 2 officers and 1 civilian. The landowners have unanimously elected to appeal. Hearings on appeals have been held by the Commission, but as of the date of the testimony taken by the committee during time consideration of H.R. 5700 no decisions had been rendered. Under the Army's proposal the same procedure would be followed in the acquisition of a long-term easement.


Okinawa traditionally has had a predominantly agricultural economy, in which land is the most precious possession. A family of five can subsist on a holding of only eight-tenths of an acre. There are 290,000 acres in Okinawa, of which only 80,000 are arable. There is a population density of 1,270 persons per square mile, as compared to 281 in India, 178 in the Philippines, 123 in China, and 16 in Brazil. To point up further the unusual importance of land to the age-old agricultural economy of Okinawa one merely needs to consider that in the United States approximately 161.5 million people occupy almost 3 million square miles of land, or 54 persons to the square mile. Therefore, should population conditions in the Ryukyus exist in the United States, the population of the United States would be 2.75 billion instead of the current 161.5 million.

The arable land, some 16,000 acres, within the 40,000 acres now utilized by the military comprised 20 percent of all of the arable land in Okinawa. United States occupancy has displaced some 50,000 families, or approximately 250,000 people. About 3,000 of the 12,000 acres stated to be required by the Marines also is arable.

The displaced landowner receives for his eight-tenths of an acre an average rental per year (based on 1952 fee values) of less than $20. This obviously does not provide him with the finances with which to relocate himself. Neither does he regard this as adequate compensation for loss of the use of land which previously provided him and his family with a minimum but continuing means of livelihood.

That the problem of the displaced landowners has not assumed more serious economic and political proportions is attributable to two pertinent factors. First, the landowners were, in the main, displaced by act of war in 1945. Large numbers of them have found employment either in the construction industry which has boomed during the erection of military installations or they have become employees of the United States forces. Secondly, approximately one-third of the landowners have been permitted to continue to farm their land (held by the United States under implied lease) pending the time when full use of master-plan land will be required. If the current annual rental basis is continued, the economic plight faced by these landowners at the time of ultimate displacement, and by those who would be displaced to meet the Marines' requirements would be such as to create a most serious civil problem.

It would perhaps be appropriate to interpolate at this point the fact that the agrarian economy of the Ryukyu Islands, when under the jurisdiction of Japan, usually resulted in an annual net deficit and required subsidies in various forms from outside sources. Naturally the occupancy of land by the Japanese during World War II contributed to the economic difficulties experienced by the Okinawans. Today there is a rapidly increasing population and the much greater area occupied by the United States forces, when coupled with this increasing population, substantially aggravates what is in essence a basic economic problem on the island. The taking of lands by the United States from the present agrarian economy, in conjunction with the ever-increasing pressures of overpopulation, has merely accentuated the traditional deficiencies of the Ryukyuan agrarian economy and has hastened the transition of Ryukyuan peoples into other types of occupations.


It is the position of the Army that an equitable solution of this issue suggests two actions. First, the United States would acquire long-term interests in the lands required by the United States forces. In the light of the strong Ryukyuan tradition against relinquishing title to land, the program contemplated is the acquisition of long-term easements granting full use of the land for so long as it may be needed by the United States, with lump-sum payment to be made to the owner in the amount of the fee value current at the time the long-term easements are acquired. Second, the United States would fund a minimum public works program to provide for community facilities (roads, schools, hospitals, water facilities, and power) in the southern Ryukyus and in Okinawa where virgin lands could thus be made accessible for the resettlement of families already or hereafter to be displaced to meet the United States forces land requirements.

Such a dual-purpose program, the Army states, would give the landowner the United States estimate of the full value of his land at the time the long-term easement is acquired. This he could apply to relocating himself in the resettlement areas where lie could continue to derive his livelihood from the land or use the funds in other ways described in more detail below. This would be manifestly more economical to the United States than a continuation of annual rental.


The formula and method of compensation sought by the Okinawans, on the other hand, is based on what they designate as a standard of computation. This position is in opposition to a lump-sum payment and a long-term easement or other long-term interest. The Okinawans propose instead a continuation of rental for so long as the lands are required by the United States, with annual rentals in the magnitude of some seven times the current estimated rental value of the land. Their request is based on the theory that they should obtain, as rental, 100 percent of the net value of the product which the land could produce without any deduction for family labour. In addition, they request a lump-sum payment of a sum equal to 5 years such rental to all displaced landowners as compensation for their loss of livelihood.

As testified before the full committee in Washington and before the subcommittee in Okinawa, payments for the 40,000 acres under the method proposed by the Okinawans would contemplate an annual rental of $8,263,178 for the 40,000 acres, plus $14,368,104 as payment for "outstanding claims for destruction of land and property and for incidental expenses and losses incurred as a result of land acquisitions." This figure, the testimony indicated, includes $4,937,793 as payment for land requisitioned for highways. The wide disparity between the United States and Okinawan valuations is evident when one considers that the United States estimate of the market value of the fee title to the property presented by the Army during the hearings in Washington would under the Okinawan proposal, be paid out in a little over 2 years in rental payments and other claims.


Above are set out, the subcommittee hopes, all of the basic facts necessary for an understanding of the land problem itself. Underneath the land problem, however, are the elements which create it, and they are: First, why we are in Okinawa and, second, how long we will stay there. We are in Okinawa: first, by conquest; second, by reason of the peace treaty with Japan; and third, by policy statements of our Government in connection with the peace treaty and subsequent thereto. Why we are there from a specific military standpoint follows.


We are in Okinawa because it constitutes an essential part of our worldwide defenses. In Japan and the Philippines, as in other parts of the world, our base tenure is dependent upon the continued existence of friendly governments. In the Ryukyu Islands the circumstances of our political control and the absence of a belligerent nationalistic movement allow us to plan for long-term use of a forward military base in the offshore island chain of the Far East-Pacific area, subject, of course to our own national policy. Here there are no restrictions imposed by a foreign government on our rights to store or to employ atomic weapons. In addition to the foregoing considerations, assigned missions of the Army, Navy, and Marines add to the importance of this island.


The Army maintains a forward military base for operations in the area; defends the island against amphibious and airborne attack employing ground forces possessing an atomic capability; provides antiaircraft defense for the air power complex; furnishes logistical support to the other services and carries out those administrative and governmental responsibilities over the island and its people which are laid down in the treaty of peace with Japan. In the event of an attack the Army commander assumes temporary operational control of all United States forces in the area.


The United States "forward strategy" in the Far East is strengthened by the United States occupation of Okinawa, one of the offshore island chain from which the United States, together with its allies, is attempting to contain Communist aggression in the Far East. During this period of "cold war" it contains one of the naval air facilities from which reconnaissance planes are operated to maintain a continuous surveillance of Communist activity in the area. Units of the Pacific Fleet Marine Force are maintained in Okinawa as a ready force capable of moving rapidly into any troubled area in the Western Pacific. In the event the United States withdraws its forces from Japan, the importance of maintaining Okinawa as a military base in peacetime increases.

In the event of war the strategic importance of Okinawa will be even greater than it is at present. It is ideally located to control the approaches to the Yellow and Japanese Seas, the exits from the Soviet bases in the Far East; it is an excellent backup base for possible Formosan-Communist China war; and is one of the few islands in the Pacific which can easily be defended and supported in event of early reverses in a Pacific war. In the Korean conflict Okinawa was used as a base for land-and-sea planes engaged in reconnaissance and mine warfare operations. In any future war this island will once again be used for these same tasks as well as antisubmarine strikes. In addition to the shore facilities, Buckner Bay is used by the Navy as an advanced secondary base for surface, escort antisubmarine, and mine-sweeping operations. It could be used also as a seadrome for naval aircraft. Considerable waterfront construction would be necessary before these seaplanes could be shore supported; in the meantime however, they can be based and tended by forces afloat.

Air Force

Okinawa, about 500 miles east of the mainland of China and about 825 miles from both Tokyo and Manila, is part of the pacific defense perimeter considered essential to the security of the United States. To the Far East Air Forces has been assigned the mission of providing forces for the defense of our installations along this perimeter, and other installations in the territories of foreign nations with which we have treaty commitments, and to conduct troop carrier operations and furnish logistical support for FEAF's widely scattered units. Okinawa provides one of the most essential bases of the Far East Air Forces in carrying out its mission.

Okinawa is also a springboard from which strategic and tactical forces of the United States Air Force could be employed against Communist aggression. As such it is essentially one of our growing chain of overseas bases which exist to extend the range of the strategic air units. Therefore, for our own security at the present time and to provide needed capability for rapid deployment in the event of future aggression, it is essential that the United States Air Force plan on maintaining air units on Okinawa for the foreseeable future. The administrative and housekeeping organization at Kadena Air base, on Okinawa is the 313th Air Division; the combat operational unit is the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing.


The question as to the length of our tenure was perhaps best answered by the Secretary of State when he said, in connection with the return of the Amami Islands to the jurisdiction of Japan, that it was the intention of the United States to continue "to exercise its present powers and rights in the remaining Ryukyu Islands...so long as conditions of threat and tension exist in the Far East." Unhappily, therefore, it appears that we will be on Okinawa for a very long time.


With time foregoing facts in mind, it is evident that the land problem is not one for the present alone and for the immediate future but one with a relative permanence which cannot be disregarded. It is equally evident that the United States has certain responsibilities toward the Okinawans. These responsibilities arise in the first instance from our tradition of fair play. This concept finds its manifestation in matters relating to the acquisition of land in the payment of just compensation under the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution. A responsibility arises also because Okinawa has become, in its most precise sense, a "showcase of democracy." The eyes of the world, and particularly the hooded eye of the Communist world, are fixed attentively on our actions in Okinawa the latter in concentrated study to discover what can be used as propaganda against us. These two considerations have been deliberately placed in order of priority - morality first, practicality second.


At this point, it would be well to examine closely the exact nature and effect of the plan for compensation sought by the Okinawans. Apparently, the Okinawan plan is based upon the Japanese special measures law which provides for 80 percent of the estimated gross income from lands as rentals. It should be pointed out that, assuming the special measures law to be the basis of the Okinawan request, this law was enacted to meet temporary conditions in Japan, when it was probably not deemed necessary or desirable for owners to relocate elsewhere permanently, but rather to return and take back their lands when the United States forces no longer needed them. As indicated previously this situation does not exist in Okinawa since we must assume at this time that our tenure will be a long one.

Moneywise, as previously indicated, the Okinawan proposal would involve an annual rental of $8,263,178 plus a one-time lump-sum payment of $14,368,104 as "other compensation."

Simply stated, the Okinawan plan contemplates that the United States would pay to an Okinawan landowner the gross income which he could expect to derive from his land were he actually farming it. Even labour; which is normally family labour, would not be deducted from the gross income and the only deduction which would be made would be the very small expenses involved in the purchase of seed, etc.

This is the official proposal of the government of the Ryukyuan Islands. The subcommittee does not intend in any way to impugn the sincerity of those Okinawans within and without the government who support this plan. It is extremely difficult, however, for the subcommittee to understand, even on a bargaining basis, how such an extreme request could be made. In effect, the request means that if an Okinawan owned a piece of agricultural land which is now needed by the United States, our Government should support that individual, and possibly his heirs, in the same manner and fashion as though he were spending long and arduous hours of work and accepting the hazards of nature throughout each year. This proposal transcends any socialistic theory of compensation with which the members of this subcommittee are familiar. Nothing could be more degenerating to the landowner or less fair to the American taxpayer. It would create a group of what might be called ``landed gentry'' inasmuch as the dispossessed landowner would, as previously pointed out, receive, without the expenditure of any labour, the equivalent of his total land productivity. It is not inconceivable either that adoption of this plan would create an inflationary spiral to the detriment of the Ryukyus people and particularly those who would not be receiving this large annual rental. Also, the basic issue would not be settled by an annual rental since it is inevitable that there would be an attempt to obtain oven more rental as the time approached for periodic revaluation.


While the Okinawans, in the opinion of the subcommittee, have asked for compensation well beyond the realm of justice, our own Government, on the other hand, has failed to compensate the Okinawan for the loss which he has suffered. As dealt with above, the United States has fixed rents at 6 percent of the fair value of the property occupied and indeed has made its estimate of the fee value apparently generous - an average of $330 per acre. It cannot he denied, however, that the average Okinawan family owned only 0.8 acre and, at the 6 percent annual rental rate, he is receiving less than $20 a year. The Okinawan could subsist on his 0.8 acre. He cannot subsist on the less than $20 which he receives in rental.


The foregoing descriptions of compensation paid by the United States, while accurate, is misleading in that it does not reflect the collateral benefits which have accrued to the Okinawans by reason of the presence of United States forces in Okinawa, as for example the extensive employment of Okinawans by reason of the defense-construction activities of the United States forces, the direct employment by the United States of Okinawans in other than defense construction, and the numerous other opportunities which have been afforded the Okinawan by reason of the very substantial change in the economic atmosphere of Okinawa. It is reported that 1 of every 4 of Okinawa's labour force works in one way or another for the United States military and are paid the highest wages in Okinawan history. Permanent buildings on paved streets are replacing the narrow dirt roads of Naha, the capital city, modern shopping centers are rising, theaters are being built, these latter being local, not United States activities. The death rate is down to less than 40 percent of prewar, and many an Okinawan who lived almost exclusively on sweet potatoes has now a much more varied diet which includes rice.

Further, about 2 years ago, the United States embarked on a program of building classrooms which, in another year, should provide the Okinawans with adequate modern concrete school buildings. Today, Okinawa has its own university, also a United States innovation, and understandably a matter of great pride to the Okinawans. From a very small number of schools, there are now 141 elementary schools, 16 high schools and 10 vocational high schools. The picture, then, has to he viewed from all its sides in order to have an understanding of both the hardships which have been imposed by our occupancy and the benefits which the occupancy has brought to the Okinawans.


It is the subcommittee's view from the considerations outlined above that on the one hand the compensation request of the Ryukyuan government is unreasonable and on the other hand the position of our own Government to date is unrealistic. The Ryukyuan request and the inherent complexities of the land problem have, of course, provided a ready political issue for a small and vociferous minority. The problem provides to this minority an unusually well-adapted vehicle for demagogic confusion. It is wholly certain that this minority, whether communistic agitated or not, will not be satisfied with whatever action the United States takes in the way of compensation, however just and generous, since any indication of satisfaction would eliminate the political issue, local or international, which it has found so useful. It would be convenient, and would appear to make the solution of the problem easy, to take the position that land is land wherever it is located, and that the acquisition of it is always bound by the precisely same rules. The subcommittee believes that it is clear, however, that very special political and economic factors are present in the acquisition of land in the Ryukyus which would not be present in the United States. This fact cannot be too strongly stressed. The easy and convenient position would, in the subcommittee's opinion, fail to provide a just solution in Okinawa and would lead those charged with the acquisition of land there and in the other Ryukyus far astray and result in a continuation of the inequitable situation which exists today.


The United States appraisers to date have attempted to arrive at values based on sales and rentals of comparable property. In the United States this technique normally provides a reliable index of agricultural as well as other properties frequently bought and sold. It is, therefore, one admirably suited to any area of the world where there is an active market in real estate. For what is being paid for comparable property in a free market is without doubt the truest test of its value. In the Ryukyus there has never been an active market in agricultural lands. Agricultural lands are rarely bought and sold but, rather, remain in a single family for generations. It would appear clear, therefore, that comparable sales alone do not provide a suitable index to the valuation of agricultural lands in Okinawa and the other Ryukyus.


Both during the hearings in Washington and the hearings held in Okinawa, consideration concern was expressed by the Okinawan witnesses that the average Okinawan, being unused to the handling of money, would be unable to utilize it properly and having dissipated the funds received in lump-sum payment would find himself in a serious economic plight. The subcommittee is unable to evaluate the reasonableness of this possibility. It does appear, however, that if such a possibility is based upon sound knowledge of the Okinawan landowner's inability to spend funds in a provident fashion reason-able controls could be imposed which would give him the guidance and aid necessary for his protection. For example, the lump-sum payments could be deposited in a governmental fund which could be used for land development, commercial enterprise, and other similar economically beneficial projects toward the end that sufficient revenue could be generated by such activities to make annual payments to the depositors. Further, provision could be made for landowners to withdraw a part or all of their deposit on a showing that they would use it for acquiring new lands, making a sound commercial investment, or for the purpose of homesteading in the southern islands or emigrating to foreign lands. The foregoing would contemplate the development of appropriate machinery by the government of the Ryukyu Islands in whose hands would rest this responsibility.


Since the time of the hearing held in Okinawa, the subcommittee has continued its study of the problem and in the course of this study has had brought to its attention comments in the local press relating to the hearings held there. The subcommittee was somewhat surprised to find that press comment in Okinawa indicated disappointment in the manner and substance of the presentation by the Okinawan witnesses appearing before the subcommittee. In the first instance, it is quite understandable that the witnesses would have little knowledge of the procedure followed by a congressional subcommittee in its search for facts. It appears that the penetrating questions of the subcommittee and its apparently insatiable curiosity as to all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the land problem, as evidenced by its questioning of the witnesses, gave rise to the feeling among the Okinawans that the members of the subcommittee were not wholly sympathetic with their problems. Nothing could be further from the fact. The subcommittee realized that it had traveled a long distance and indeed had created somewhat of a precedent in holding hearings in Okinawa. It felt that there was no better place to ascertain what the problems were and what were the possible solutions. The, subcommittee was therefore determined to examine every facet of the land problem. The subcommittee was, and is, most sympathetic to the problems of the dispossessed landowners and with the other inhabitants of the Ryukyus who have been affected by the occupancy of the islands by United States forces.

That portion of the press comment which expressed disappointment in the Okinawan witnesses is, in the opinion of the subcommittee, unwarranted. It is true that some questions were not answered to the complete satisfaction of the subcommittee members but that is not infrequently the case at hearings held in Washington where the witnesses are well versed in committee procedure and the probable roads of inquiry. Some of the difficulties, and none of them was serious, could be easily explained by the fact that virtually all of the witnesses' statements required translation by the interpreter at the witness table. It is the view of the subcommittee that, on the whole, the witnesses deported themselves in a dignified and commendable fashion. In any event, the combination of the testimony taken both in Washington and in Okinawa, the physical inspections made by the subcommittee, and the additional conversations with the mayors and people of the many villages visited gave the subcommittee members a well-rounded view of the problems which they had come to study. Similarly, the subcommittee, through its Washington and Okinawa hearings, became aware of the problems faced by our own forces. It can be said, therefore, that while it is not inconceivable that all interested persons will not agree with the conclusions arrived at by the subcommittee and the recommendations which the subcommittee is making based on those conclusions, lack of understanding cannot, it is thought, lie the basis therefor.


For what is essentially a real-estate activity, there is connected with the land acquisition in Okinawa an almost unprecedented number and variety of problems. These problems, although based upon the need for land by the United States forces, involve considerations which go far beyond mere acquisition of land. As has been indicated there are delicate local and international political aspects of the problem as well as profound economic effects arising from it. It is obvious under these circumstances that the authority granted to the military cannot be exercised with the rigidity and precision which would be expected, and properly so, under similar circumstances within the United States. It is the view of the subcommittee, therefore, that, while staying within the confines of the law as it has been generally enacted, there is need for the exercise of considerable imagination arid sympathy in administration which would not otherwise obtain. It is hoped, therefore, that there will be shown by those charged with responsibilities for this program a broadness of view and an elasticity of thought adequate to encompass the great variety of answers which they will be called upon to provide.


It has been said that however sympathetic one may be to Ryukyuan problems, a simple unpopular truth must be faced: Our primary mission in the islands is strategic and this mission in the last analysis, and the military necessity which flows from the mission, must take precedence. The long-term easement which is recommended by the subcommittee in lieu of the payment of annual rental should not, in the opinion of the subcommittee, be construed as a necessary indication of the length of our stay in the Ryukyuan Islands. We, as much as the Ryukyuans, or some of them, wish that occupancy of the island were not necessary. It is undeniable, however, that it is necessary and all of the recommendations contained in this report are based on that fact. The highest policy statement which can be quoted in support of this is that of President Eisenhower who, in his State of the Union address on January 7, 1954, said ``We shall maintain indefinitely our bases in Okinawa.''


Although not related to the land problem in Okinawa, the subcommittee wishes to make a recommendation which must ultimately affect the Okinawans, our defense, and perhaps in a sense, the world.

It is understood that the military public-works program for fiscal year 1957 will contain an item for the first increment of facilities required to generate some 44,000 kilowatts of electric power. This construction, which constitutes only a beginning, will cost approximately $11,500,000. It is estimated that ultimately, on Okinawa, there will be a requirement for something in the order of 150,000 kilowatts. Every barrel of oil now used and to be used in the future as fuel for these generating plants must come by tanker over thousands of miles of ocean. The oil must be pumped through lines constructed for this purpose and stored in tanks erected at great cost.

It is well known that the development of nuclear powerplants for commercial requirements is underway in the United States as is the Army reactor program to provide "package" atomic powerplants to produce heat and electricity for remote bases. It seems obvious to the subcommittee that nuclear powerplants will be most competitive with conventional powerplants in areas such as Okinawa where transportation costs actually exceed the cost of the fuel oil at its source in the Persian Gulf. For reasons of economy, development of the art and for the dramatic impact which the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes would have if developed in an area as essentially warlike as is Okinawa, the subcommittee recommends that the Department of Defense study and made appropriate recommendations in this connection.


It is not the intention of the subcommittee to invade the proper province of the executive branch in its valuation of real estate. However, the subcommittee feels, as indicated above, that so far as agricultural lands in the Ryukyus are concerned, it is wholly unrealistic to use the comparable sales approach. What, then, is the alternative? It is the view of the subcommittee that in arriving at compensation for land best suited for agricultural production, the United States should give predominate consideration to current agricultural productivity and income data relating to similar lands now in agricultural use in Okinawa. Certainly the present worth of the future benefits of the property is, in Okinawa, uniquely a factor to be considered if the Okinawan landowner is to be fairly compensated for his property and the United States is to discharge its overall obligations in Okinawa.

The subcommittee also recommends that the interest to be acquired in those properties known to be required for the indefinite future be the fee title or such maximum interest as can be acquired under existing law or under such modification as may be made to existing law. Where fee title or an interest closely approximating fee title is acquired, full fair value of the property, in accordance with valuation procedures set out elsewhere in this report, should be paid. This, to the subcommittee, represents the only way in which a landowner can receive an amount of money truly adequate to make him whole, and sufficient for him to move to another area - perhaps another Ryukyuan island - to support himself while adjusting to another method of earning his livelihood or to emigrate to other countries in continuation of the program which was initiated several years ago. It has been pointed out that the other course, that is, the payment of an annual rental, would, among other things, merely continue unrest and dissension by reason of inability to agree as to the rental to he paid each time the property was revalued. The concern so often expressed by the Okinawan witnesses as to the adverse effect of paying a lump sum to an Okinawan landowner is discussed later in this report. All of the foregoing references to method of valuation refer only to agricultural lands. There is an active market in Okinawa in commercial sites and other properties which have acquired a character consistent with the new economic atmosphere caused by the United States activities on the island. With respect to these properties, the comparative sales approach is well suited to the establishment of value.


The subcommittee makes the following additional recommendations not as a wishful catchall but, in each instance, as a matter which it expects the military department concerned to study clearly and report to the Armed Services Committee as the elements of the particular recommendation mature.

All land, arable and nonarable, which can be returned to the local economy should be returned expeditiously. It is realized that there is land not now used which has a clear and well-defined contemplated use in accordance with existing master plans. The subcommittee fears, however, that in addition to these lands there are others which may be being held on the basis of a mere possibility that they may be required in the future. These latter lands, to the extent that they exist, should be returned without delay.

  • It is the understanding of the subcommittee that of the some 17,000 acres of arable land now under the control of the military, approximately 6,000 are being farmed by Okinawans on a permit basis. It is understood also that, of these 6,000 acres, there is good reason to believe that 3,000 acres can be farmed almost indefinitely since this acreage consists principally of standby airstrips, antenna farms, POL tank farms, and ammunition storage areas. The availability of those lands now farmed by the Okinawans should be continued to the maximum extent possible and additional lands made available wherever and whenever this can be done.
  • The recommendation contained herein is directed to the Okinawans themselves and particularly to the government of the Ryukyuan Islands. It has been estimated that there are at least 12,000 acres (some estimates run as high as 27,000 acres) of formerly arable land on the island of Okinawa which are lying fallow. None of the lands referred to here are master plan lands. It is understood that most of this land is owned by individuals with other means of livelihood, richer farmlands elsewhere, or who are employed by the military or private industries. Although reasons are advanced by the Okinawans as to why these lands are not being cultivated, none of the reasons appears to be of sufficient validity as to permit them to remain uncultivated. The subcommittee investigation disclosed that the executive department of the government of the Ryukyuan Islands, after some urging by United States authorities, drafted a bill for the acquisition by a government agency of these and other thousands of acres of potentially arable lands. This bill would also provide for improvement of the lands acquired by providing water sources, cleaning, etc. It is urged that prompt and aggressive action be taken to the end that all properties possible of cultivation be so utilized.
  • Although plans would not appear to have been fully developed as yet, it was understood by the subcommittee that the Air Force was giving serious consideration to the construction of an airfield on the island of Miyako which lies 180 miles southwest of Okinawa. The subcommittee flew at low altitude over this island and it gave every appearance of being intensely cultivated. The subcommittee understands also that by reason of there being on this island insufficient land for its population, there is now going on a movement of Miyako residents to the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote. This proposal should be reexamined with the greatest of care since it would appear that, on a smaller scale, it would create problems on Miyako far worse than those which have been created on Okinawa.
  • The subcommittee was surprised to find the importance to the economy of the villages throughout Okinawa of non privately owned forest areas for the gathering of firewood. It appears that maneuvers and other military activities have interfered with the use of these lands by the villagers by reason of their being deprived of the use of these forests for days at a time. This, as stated above, constitutes a real hardship and one which goes directly to the basic economy of some of the villages so affected. The subcommittee desires that the military departments take every possible action to insure the maximum rise of these forests in their traditional fashion and urges that the approach to this problem be on a sympathetic and cooperative basis.
  • Much assistance can be rendered the dispossessed Okinawan landowner through the initiation of a program to restore, clear, or otherwise prepare, potential agricultural lands. It is the view of the subcommittee that our forces should initiate and prosecute a program designed to render this assistance and utilize their engineering knowledge and equipment to ensure its success. In this connection, as indeed in connection with some of the other recommendations made by the subcommittee, it is pertinent to refer to the promise of the Secretary of State that the United States would "do all in its power to improve the welfare and well-being of the inhabitants of the Ryukyus."


    The subcommittee returned from Okinawa with two questions still unanswered. One related to the wisdom of placing a Marine division (minus a regimental combat team) on Okinawa. The other related to the use of Futenma airstrip by the Air Force and its corollary question, the plan for development of the Yonabaru airstrip by the Navy.

    The subcommittee has held exhaustive hearings on both of these questions since its return and has come to the conclusion that the military decision to place two-thirds of a Marine division on Okinawa is a correct one, and one well justified on tire basis of military requirements. The details of these hearings and the basis for the subcommittee's conclusion involve matters of high security classification and, therefore, cannot be the subject of dissension in the report.

    Futenma airstrip comprises approximately 1,800 acres. It is used only in marginal fashion by the Air Force today but has a specific planned utilization for the future.

    Yonabaru is a naval airstrip which is not used today. It comprises some 630 acres and its utilization would require the acquisition of substantial additional land by the Navy.

    The proposed use of both of these fields was, as indicated, the subject of highly detailed hearings by the subcommittee. While the subcommittee interposes no objection to what are today tentative plans for the use of these 2 fields, it urges continuing study of the intermingled interests of the 2 departments in the 2 facilities. The position taken by the subcommittee in this respect is colored by the fact that the development and use of both fields are not at the present time beyond the planing stage. Many considerations which cannot be clearly foreseen today will enter into the ultimate decisions with respect to both of them.


    In summary then, the recommendations of the subcommittee are:

    1. That the interest to be acquired in those properties known to be required for the indefinite future be the fee title or such maximum interest as can be acquired under existing law or under such modification as may be made to existing law. Where fee title or an interest closely approximating fee title is acquired, full fair value of the property, in accordance with valuation procedures set out elsewhere in this report, should be paid.
    2. That in evaluating agricultural lands, predominant consideration should be given to agricultural productivity.
    3. That in evaluating commercial-type properties, the comparable sales approach he used.
    4. That all land, arable and nonarable, which can be returned to the local economy, should be so returned expeditiously.
    5. That those lands now occupied by the military which are being farmed by the Ryukyuans be continued in this use, and any other lands possible of cultivation be made available for such use.
    6. That the government of the Ryukyu Islands initiate an aggressive program to the end that those lands in Okinawa not under the control of the military which are now lying fallow be rendered available for cultivation.
    7. That the acquisition of additional lands by our military forces be kept to an absolute minimum.
    8. That the Department of the Air Force reexamine its proposal to construct an airfield on the island of Miyako.
    9. That the military departments permit maximum use of the forests of Okinawa by villagers and that this be done on a sympathetic and cooperative basis.
    10. That United States forces initiate and prosecute a program to render all aid and assistance to the Ryukyuans in restoring or otherwise preparing lands for cultivation.
    11. That the Navy and Air Force approach the question of development of Yonabaru and Futenma in a careful and conservative manner with ultimate decisions based only on the most precise and detailed consideration of every social, economic and financial element.

    It is recommended that the subcommittee's suggestion concerning the possibility of developing electrical power through the use of nuclear energy be given most serious consideration by the Department of Defense.

  • the ryukyu-okinawa history and culture website © 1995-2016 john michael purves